Paula McIntyre: There’s something nostalgic about rhubarb stems tied up with twine

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What could brighten up a dull day than the sight of locally grown rhubarb appearing in the shops now?

There’s something very nostalgic about seeing the ruby red stems tied up with twine and ready to be used.

Serendipitously the first of the British strawberries have arrived. You can buy strawberries all year round but the local ones actually smell and taste of the fruit they’re supposed to be. Buy them in December and they look artificial and have absolutely no scent and a taste like you’d imagine a loofah to have.

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The slightly sour rhubarb and super sweet strawberries balance each other beautifully. You could add strawberries to your rhubarb mix for a buttery, hot crumble or make a cobbler by topping the mixture of fruit with a small scones and bake until bubbling and golden. Here the recipe is for individual rhubarb, strawberry and almond puddings. The fruits are gently poached and then put at the bottom of buttered large ramekins or heat proof bowls. The poaching liquor is boiled to a syrup and folded through cream for a ripple effect. The topping is a chiffon like sponge where egg yolks are added to beaten sugar and butter and then the whipped whites added so you end up with an almost soufflé like effect. Serve them hot with the cold cream.

Enjoy a variety of delicious dishes created with rhubarb. Picture: unsplashEnjoy a variety of delicious dishes created with rhubarb. Picture: unsplash
Enjoy a variety of delicious dishes created with rhubarb. Picture: unsplash

Viennese swirls are one of those classic biscuits that always graced teatime tables when I was younger. They’re a lot classier than a regular shortbread and have a lightness of texture. The soft biscuit dough is piped rather than rolled and cut out. There’s a bit more work but it’s definitely worth it. Traditionally they’d be filled with a buttercream but I think whipped cream is a less sweet and lighter option. I cook the rhubarb with sugar and elderflower cordial to a jammy consistency and tend to leave it a bit sharp as there’s sufficient sweetness in the biscuits to balance it.

When you have spring rhubarb it has a unique quality that’s worth preserving. It freezes well – just chop up and bag or make it into a jam. I’ve added a recipe for the jam – it’s basically just boiling the fruit with sugar until it reaches set point. It will keep for a year so you can have it on a thickly buttered warm soda in November with the memory of spring past.